- You’ve heard about them. The free newsgroup servers.
Things have changed a lot since we first started tracking free, open to the public usenet access. No-one does it any more. Go ahead and read all the background about free usenet servers in our explanations below. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
Check out the open server links and search engines at the bottom of the page. Yeah – we’ll be waiting for you right here…
Done? Disappointed? We told you so – you’re not going to find alt.binaries.sex.noseplugs on any open server.
- Free Usenet Trial accounts. This is where the real action is. The only way to get free access to the good stuff on Usenet, all the alt.binaries groups and such, is to go through one of the premium Usenet providers like Giganews. Thankfully, most have tree trials – some up to 2 or even 3 weeks. We have a list of the best free usenet trial accounts in the column on the right. We update it when a good special comes up too.
Sorry if this seems like some sort of bait-n-switch, but it’s just the truth.
- OK – so what about those free, open to the public newsgroup servers?
- Web-Based free services. We haven’t found any free web-based usenet services that offer binaries that aren’t just scams. But for text we have a new favorite: Derkeiler.com . It goes back to 2005, and while it doesn’t include any of the alt.binaries.* groups, it’s pretty easy to use. Derkeiler usenet is broken down by groups, and then by month and year. Once you select a month, all the conversations for that month are listed in a clearly threaded form. You can’t post on Derkeiler, but it’s a great resource for reading Usenet messages.
- Older, but much harder to use is Google Newsgroups. The Google database is actually a continuation of the old DejaNews service, and goes back nearly 20 years. The only thing we don’t like about Google is that it’s hard to just browse a newsgroup – everything is search oriented, not browse oriented.
- Free NNTP Usenet servers (supporting newsreaders like Newsbin Pro) typically fall into one of three categories:
- Someone left the barn door open. In this case, someone has set up a Usenet NNTP server, is getting feeds of articles from a peer or two, but has forgotten to put a password on the server. So anyone who finds the address can just connect and download newsgroups free. While this does happen from time to time, it’s pretty rare these days. Anyone with a fat enough pipe and enough disk space to host a newsgroup server of any size also has some decent knowledge about what they’re doing, and leaving the barn door open is a mistake they are unlikely to make. Further, as soon as an address is found and people start to connect, the host’s bandwidth gets so overwhelmed that they fix their mistake pretty darned quickly. Anyone who isn’t overwhelmed in a few hours probably doesn’t have any newsgroups of interest (i.e. binary newsgroups). Further, there is some question regarding the legality of connecting to a newsgroup server without their permission and taking advantage of their mistake. Typically it’s easier for the host to just close the door and forget about those who sucked up their bandwidth for a while, but it is not inconceivable that a law firm somewhere would be willing to take on a damages case against an uninvited reader. In a nutshell, open barn doors are rare, don’t last long, and typically don’t have any interesting groups.Face it, if you want the good stuff, you’re gonna end up paying for it. Still, a good usenet service is much cheaper than a web site subscription and looks better on the credit card bill.
- Humanitarian causes. These servers are often hosted by universities or other not-for-profit organizations that want to foster free speech. That’s what newsgroups were about in the first place, and these organizations aspire to continue that history. However, free speech is about text messages here, not binaries. You are very unlikely to find alt.binaries.nude.spongebob on one of these servers.
- Corporate Usenet Servers. Many of the larger computer software and services companies run usenet servers dedicated to the newsgroups about their products. There are hundreds of public newsgroups dedicated to products from Borland, Microsoft, IBM, and HP. These newsgroups are typically available on all the ISP Usenet servers, but it is not uncommon for the corporation that makes the product to also host a free usenet server that carries just the newsgroups about its products. Why would Microsoft host a bunch of servers about its own products when most ISP’s already host them too? Because this allows them to archive activity much longer, years for some group. A newsgroup discussion group is also a great self-help product support vehicle for many companies. Also, because many of their clients (other companies) give their employees access to the Internet from work, but do not supply a usenet server for them. This allows the employees in IT at XYZ Manufacturing to read the microsoft.public.dotnet.languages.csharp newsgroup at work by connecting to an open connection at Microsoft.
- If you are still intent on trying to find and use a free newsgroup server, the following is a list of web pages that collect information about open servers. Note, these sites come and go, as they must be updated almost daily when open servers are re-passworded. If you find any of these links to be dead, or wish to suggest an addition, please write to us here.